How Attending AIHce EXP Can Benefit Early Career Professionals
For occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) professionals early in their careers, conferences offer particularly important opportunities, in terms of both education and networking, to find their way in a field that they are still new to. The challenges of getting started in the OEHS field are familiar to Felix Boachie, MS, CIH, CSP, who volunteers for AIHA’s Noise Committee and Technology Initiative Strategic Advisory Group in addition to serving as a global industrial hygiene director at McCormick & Company. An AIHA member since 2010, he is also a former member of the Student and Early Career Professionals Committee.
Recently, we sat down with Felix for a discussion about attending AIHce EXP in-person for the first time in two years and the ways that early-career professionals can benefit from the experience.
With AIHce EXP returning as an in-person event this year, what are you looking forward to the most about coming back?
I’m looking forward to having those random, unplanned conversations that often end up being some of my greatest takeaways from the conference altogether. These conversations could involve finding someone to compare notes with about a work issue or connecting with either a new colleague or someone that I’ve only previously met virtually. Unplanned connections like these tend to bring a ton of value, and I can’t wait to see who I end up meeting this year.
How do you think the pandemic has changed the ways OEHS professionals approach live events such as this?
I think the pandemic has changed the way every professional looks at attending live events, and OEHS professionals are no exception. Each person has to conduct their own risk assessment and determine what they are comfortable with within the context of an in-person conference and, ultimately, will have to make the personal decision of whether the risk is worth the reward. As OEHS professionals, we happen to have a lot of practice with conducting risk assessments for the purposes of protecting health, so we are well equipped to make these decisions.
What do you think is the most important thing for early-career professionals to focus on at this year’s conference?
The reality is that AIHce EXP 2022 will still be a hybrid conference, which could mean there still will be many fewer people physically attending this conference in comparison to pre-pandemic conferences. Although I would personally prefer that everyone was physically in attendance, I believe that the hybrid format could provide advantages for early career professionals, as they may have better chances of getting access and quality time with leaders in our profession. I would encourage early career professionals to utilize this experience to make strong connections with seasoned industry veterans and leverage networking opportunities that can be much more powerful in person compared to online.
As an early career professional yourself, what tips or suggestions do you have for your peers to get the most from their experience?
Define your “why” for attending AIHce EXP this year. This could mean identifying your primary purpose for attending or your desired takeaway from the conference. If you define your “why,” you provide yourself with a direction that helps guide your activities while you are at the conference. Schedules are packed with events, sessions, networking events, and other activities, which can make it overwhelming to determine where your time is best spent. Defining your “why” helps address these conflicts and sets you up for success.
How did your first AIHce EXP experience impact your career path?
I attended my first AIHce EXP in 2011, in Portland, Oregon. At the time, I was finishing up my first year of graduate school and was pondering a career change to a specific industry. I knew that the conference would be the ideal location for me to learn more about the ins and outs of this industry and hopefully meet some contacts that could provide insight into how to make the transition. At the conference, I attended sessions where industrial hygienists from this industry presented the challenges they faced. Through these sessions, I was able to make connections with many people working within the industry. Two of these connections ultimately led to me getting my first job opportunity in that industry and put me on the professional path to where I am today. It truly was a transformational experience and a great introduction to the potential power of showing up to AIHce EXP with defined objectives and a curious mind.
AIHce EXP 2022 will be held as both a virtual and in-person conference on May 23–25: the on-site event occurring at Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee, will be supported by a vigorous virtual program. Online and offline, the conference will host keynote addresses, educational sessions, an Expo Hall, and volunteer committee meetings focused on OEHS topics, in addition to chances for networking and fun.
AIHA members with early career professional status are eligible for a $250 discount on registration for the full three-day conference. For people attending AIHce EXP for the first time, DuPont is sponsoring a First Timers’ Webinar on May 11 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time and a First Timers’ Orientation Meet and Greet at 6:30–7:30 a.m. Central time on May 23, the first day of the conference. Additional information for early-career attendees, first-time attendees, and the complete virtual and in-person conference agendas is available online.